Every year, it's the same -- I feel really sad right after Christmas when I'm packing away all my decorations, but then I'll look at the calendar one day, and all of a sudden we're already halfway through January. And I realize: the year is once again moving waaaaay too quickly. (I really need to stop feeling down after Christmas -- I don't want the next one to arrive before I have a chance to enjoy the rest of the year...) All of that was to say -- it's January 15th already??
Anyway, moving on from my "time moves too quickly" incredulity... So last week, after years (literally YEARS) of arm-twisting, I finally agreed that Rick and I should have dinner with Faisal at a Pakistani restaurant on Devon Ave., which is the location of Chicago's "Little India" neighborhood. (Okay, perhaps *I* wasn't the one who needed a good arm-twist... the reluctant holdout shall remain nameless... RICKRICKRICK. What? I felt like typing Rick's name in obvious capital letters just for the fun of it... :)) There was some discussion as to what the difference is between Indian food and Pakistani food -- I think the conclusion was "not much," although the Pakistani place did have brain on the menu. (No, I didn't try it... and no, I never will... although if I WERE inclined to eat brain, I think it would definitely be best surrounded by delicious spicy sauce...)
Faisal was a bit apprehensive about finally taking us to this place, since he'd repeatedly extolled the delicious virtues of not only this particular restaurant, but others on Devon Ave., many times when asking us to join him... so in my mind, at least, it was understood to be this completely awesome dining experience. I was seriously excited to try it. Like jumping-up-and-down-in-my-bathroom-while-I-was-getting-ready excited to try it. And lucky for Faisal, it WAS awesome. Any place that knows how to cook chicken until it's absolutely-perfect-fall-apart-tender -- and dark meat chicken, at that, which I normally don't even eat -- is on my "must visit again" list. As Faisal said -- his peeps really know what they're doing. :)
And by the way, Faisal -- THANK YOU for continually asking us to join you, even though it took SOMEONE in this house five thousand years to agree. I won't say who... RICKRICKRICK... What??? Really, I just like typing Rick's name... :) (Rick is probably now plotting my demise... or at least plotting a way to keep me far away from all Indian and/or Pakistani food for the rest of my life...)
Anyway, as I was saying -- the food at this place was awesome, and I want to go back, like, yesterday. We were all completely stuffed after dinner, but Faisal wanted to stop at a place to pick up some desserts to take home. And since I'm never one to pass up an opportunity to try a new dessert, I went into the shop and tried a sweet, sticky, square-shaped thing (which is what I kept calling it until I did some Google research to come up with the proper name -- burfi). After my huge dinner, the burfi was "good," but I could barely fit it into my quite-satisfied stomach -- nevertheless, I decided to take some home with me. The next day, with an empty stomach and a craving for something sweet, I sliced off a little piece of it and took a bite. Suddenly, I heard the singing of a thousand angels and a bright heavenly light shone from above down upon the sweet square of delightful ambrosia before me. Okay, maybe that's a SLIGHT exaggeration -- but holy sugar rush... if marzipan and fudge met up with cardamom (maybe?) and sweetened condensed milk (maybe??), this is the crazy delicious baby they would have. Seriously, I don't even know what's in this stuff (except sugar... I'm fairly certain there was sugar), but it will haunt my dreams...
This whole experience made me start thinking about foods from my own ethnic background, and how many of them I like (or hate). As an American mutt, my various ancestors are mostly from Sweden, England, France and Germany. Swedish food is out -- I'm sorry Sweden... I love you for my last name and my affinity for cold weather (although I can't say I'm always happy with my arctic-circle-chic skin tone... but whatever), but your food leaves something to be desired. I know some people love Swedish meatballs and pickled herring, but I just... can't. Although I admit to knowing very little about Swedish desserts... I should look into that...
I'm also not all that well-acquainted with English food, although I've really grown to love the fish and chips place we frequent just about every week. Not for the fish and chips, of course... but the rest of their food is good, too. Whether or not it's quintessentially English food, however, I'm not really sure. But my mom and I used to have lunch at an English tea room back in New Jersey that served the BEST scones with clotted cream -- I'm glad it was a bit of a drive from our house, because I could've eaten those things every day...
French food? Well, I do love a good chicken fricassee... and French croissants, I'm fairly certain, win the award for "best use of obscene amounts of butter in a pastry." Which means they taste amazing, of course. (You never heard Julia Child say, "you know what this dish needs? Less butter...")
But I think of all the countries of my vague origin, I am most familiar with German food -- this, no doubt, is because of my years of studying German in high school and all of our various field trips to restaurants, cultural centers, etc. Not to mention the fact that family members who knew I loved my German classes gave me German cookbooks for Christmas and birthdays. And while the Germans are a bit too in love with their wurst (which violates my "no ground up meat" rule), I do love a nicely prepared Sauerbraten, and I could pretty much eat my weight in Spätzle. Black Forest cake is one of my favorite desserts (I love chocolate and cherries), and Sacher Torte and spritz cookies are quite good, as well. And Germans are no strangers to good chocolate, either.
And now that I've written this entire post, I'm starving... sooooo... anyone for Italian? :)